Monday, June 11, 2012

Fledgling Trogons!

Wow––6 trogons in South Fork this morning! My first glimpse was of a plump bird, breast on, perched on a creek boulder. That breast showed a big white crescent, framed above and below by dark, and my first thought was, surely not a Ring Ouzel! Surely not, indeed. Through binoculars it resolved into a fledgling trogon with darker-than-normal feathers framing the big white breast crescent.

Later I saw a second fledgling, accompanied by an adult male and possibly the sibling of the first, though they were separated by about 100 yards. This second youngster didn't look as dark below the chest band, and allowed a closer approach. Its tail, while showing copper, wasn't as bright as the tail of the first fledgling. Here it is:

Fledgling Elegant Trogon, front and back (Photos by Narca)

Up at the trailhead, two male trogons were contesting territorial rights. The younger male foraged, plucking insects from spider webs. Mostly the action was quiet, and the two even perched side by side for a while. But all it took was the arrival of a female trogon, and suddenly the two males were grappling mid-air!

Two male Elegant Trogons are sizing up each other.

The older male is warning away the younger with a bit of tail-flipping, prior to combat.

The underside of the tails of these two birds reveals their age difference: the bird on the left shows the heavier barring of a one-year-old male in his first summer of life. The bird on the right shows much finer barring under the tail––the pattern of an older male. The year-old bird also shows an anomalous white feather within the green of the breast. If that pattern holds true through future molts, we should be able to identify this individual in years to come.

Interestingly, none of these three adult males was the same as the male at the known nest. That male (often seen near the bridge) has an anomalous dark feather within the white breast band. He also has a mate, so it appears that at least 8 trogons, including the two fledglings, are in lower South Fork. It also appears that the trogon census missed some! Possibly running it in May instead of June, as customary, resulted in the census's low figure of 8 individuals for the entire Cave Creek drainage. (The June counts sometimes record fledglings; one year on the count a trogon fledged right before our eyes, and landed at our feet, stub-tailed and blinking at the world.)

Other fledglings were also out and about: young Bridled Titmice, young Painted Redstarts. The Painted Redstart fledglings are at that stage when birders unfamiliar with the plumage sometimes think they are seeing a Slate-throated Redstart. Today one of the young redstarts was a black-and-white blur, not yet showing a smidgeon of red, flycatching in the gloom beneath the big willow at the South Fork bridge.

Even a young Northern Goshawk came roaring in, perched briefly, glared at me, and flew off, kek-kek-kekking. A word of advice to the young trogons––¡Ojo!––keep your eyes open! 

Early morning in South Fork

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